The Triple Crown Story

Like many things on the northern Gulf Coast it was Sonny Middleton who came up with the original concept of a Billfish Championship Series. It took almost ten years to develop The Gulf Coast Triple Crown into a championship series promoting offshore big game fishing and awarding an annual "best of the best" champion. None of us in the beginning could have envisioned how popular or widespread the series would become.

Somewhat similar in concept to NASCAR, the GCTC tracks official winners in each sanctioned tournament beginning in May at The Wharf in Orange Beach, Alabama, and following the tournament teams through Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida and returning to The Wharf in July. Points are awarded to winning teams for first through third place scores in weighed Blue Marlin, and Billfish catch-and-release divisions.

The beauty of the Triple Crown lies in its simplicity. The series focuses on recognizing the best overall championship team while bringing exposure and recognition to the spectacular big game fishing in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. If you compete in a sanctioned tournament, you're automatically entered and eligible to win...it's that simple. By participating in all sanctioned events on the circuit teams increase their odds of winning by accumulating valuable bonus points.

But, if you're interested in winning more than the trophy and bragging rights to the Championship and the $12,500 in Championship prize money, then enter the Triple Crown Optional Awards and increase your odds of winning big. Multiple optional entry levels are available to suit each team's individual taste.

In July, one team will be crowned the coveted Triple Crown Champions at the Wharf and take home the most sought after Trophy in big game fishing competition. Other teams will win big in the Optional Cash Awards categories. But, one thing's for sure. The competition will be fierce as the most competitive teams in the Gulf square off for the Chase for The Championship in May.

Championship Winner will receive: $12,500 in cash awards and...
  • The Championship Trophy - a one of a kind masterpiece handcrafted by metal artist extraordinaire Frank Ledbetter (valued at $18,000)
  • Prominent exposure in the Gulf Coast Triple Crown media campaign
  • Ultimate bragging rights as the "best of the best" along the entire Gulf Coast.


Mollie Brings 2017 Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship to Florida


For the first time in its seven-year history a company boat has won the prestigious Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship. Mollie, a 66 G&S owned by the Tractor and Equipment Company in Birmingham and operated by Capt. Jeff Shoults of Destin, Florida, captured the title after competing in the Blue Marlin Grand Championship that just concluded. Eric Hayles and Chance Young are the two mates working the cockpit of the custom sportfisher. Unlike previous years where private yachts earned top billing, Mollie had different sets of anglers for each event.

"It is a little more difficult dealing with different teams each tournament," Shoults said at the awards presentation. "But my crew makes it easy by explaining what's going on and keeping everything together. We worked hard this season and I'm confident we're going to win some more money in future tournaments. But at this point in our careers, it's very gratifying to win this trophy and to be recognized among our peers."

The Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship consists of five events in the central Gulf of Mexico and is sponsored by American Marine Brokerage. The affiliated tournaments include the Orange Beach Billfish Classic, Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic, Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic, Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic and the Blue Marlin Grand Championship.

The Triple Crown is scored on a hybrid system that includes both weight and release points for the top three finishes in the blue marlin divisions only. Bonus points are also accrued for series participation, weighed marlin lengths and tournament marlin records. The winning team receives The Championship Trophy, a seven-foot tall, one of a kind masterpiece handcrafted by metal artist Frank Ledbetter that is valued at $18,000. In addition, the Triple Crown Champion earns bragging rights amongst the region's top big-game contestants.

In winning the exquisite marlin sculpture and honors this season, Mollie placed second in the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic with a blue weighing 654.2 pounds and was also named the top release boat with four more blue marlin credited. The team also earned bonus points for fishing the circuit and length allowances, for a total of 410 points.

Lyon's Pride, a 62 Viking owned by Bob Lyons, with Capt. Daniel Menard and mates Robert Eliason and Kendall Sauls, finished second in the standings with 350 points. Team Supreme was third with 285 points. The 76 Viking is owned by Allen Krake, with Capt. Chase Lake and mate Rodney Johnson as the crew.

The Triple Crown Championship has now made its way across the Gulf. Patron took it home to Texas in 2011 and Done Deal captured it twice in 2012 and 2013 to represent Louisiana. Sea Mixer put Alabama on the map in 2014, while Relentless Pursuit gave Louisiana another showcase in 2015. Breathe Easy (Alabama) was last year's winner.

"The Triple Crown Championship trophy will be right at home in Destin with its long sport-fishing heritage," says GCTC Director Scott Burt. "Congratulations to Capt. Jeff, Eric, Chance and all of Mollie's anglers for an outstanding year. This boat is always a contender in the Gulf tournaments and now they have the hardware to match that skill and dedication."

Breathe Easy Wins the 2016 Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship

The Best of The Best in The Gulf!
Captain: Patrick Ivie, Owner: Matt McDonald, Home Port: Orange Beach, AL, Boat: 68' Viking


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JULY 20, 2016
CONTACT: Scott Burt, 850-233-1633; scott@cmmmarinas.com
Chris Miller, 850-348-1498; chris@cmmmarinas.com

The Wharf, Orange Beach, Alabama:

From wire to wire one team led the field and on Saturday night the results were made official - Breathe Easy is the 2016 Gulf Coast Triple Crown Champion. The 68 Viking, based in Orange Beach, is owned by Matt McDonald of Daphne, Alabama. Captain Patrick Ivie, also from Orange Beach, is the boat's skipper, with first mate Nick Knoepflein plus Shane Toole and Ryan Fields serving as additional crew members. American Marine Brokerage was this year's GCTC presenting sponsor.

"This is really a big deal to clinch this here at home," McDonald said after the formal presentation of the custom trophy Sunday morning. "It all started when I hired Patrick. I've known him for years, but he took a leap of faith in me coming aboard and it's humbling to have that kind of dedication. Once he did, I knew the Triple Crown was a possibility. You always think big but you also have to be real about it too. Winning this took a lot of luck and hard work. It's not something that happens every season so we're definitely going to enjoy it."

The Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship consists of five events in the central Gulf of Mexico. The affiliated tournaments include the Orange Beach Billfish Classic, Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic, Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic, Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic and the Blue Marlin Grand Championship.

The Triple Crown is scored on a hybrid system that includes both weight and release points for the top three finishes in the blue marlin divisions only. Bonus points are also accrued for series participation, weighed marlin lengths and tournament marlin records. The winning team receives The Championship Trophy, a seven-foot tall, one of a kind masterpiece handcrafted by metal artist Frank Ledbetter that is valued at $18,000. In addition, the Triple Crown Champion earns bragging rights amongst the region's top big-game contestants.

To win the crown this season, Breathe Easy placed second in the Orange Beach Billfish Classic with a 574.0-pound blue, third place in the Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic with a 392.3-pounder, and second place in the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic. That last entry, a 835-pounder, missed first place by less than three pounds. The team also earned bonus points for competing in all five events, along with length allowances, for a total of 580 points.

"The Triple Crown is not just a one-time deal," says Ivie. "It is a seasonal accomplishment and really means a lot since we were competing against the best in the world as far as the style of fishing that we do. I owe this to Matt and my crew. All my guys grew up on charter boats like me, so we all have the same background. That really helps."

Sherry and Buell Polk, owners of Share-E, a brand new 72 Viking run by Capt. Mike Roberto, made a late charge at the crown by weighing a 652.8 blue at last week's Blue Marlin Grand Championship. But that fish wasn't quite enough and the team had to settle for second place in the GCTC standings with 460 points. Share-E is based in Venice, Louisiana.

Last year's runner-up, Rise Up, came in third this time with 365 points. The 54 Viking is owned by Rusty Skalla and calls Destin, Florida home. Capt. Jason Hallmark is the boat's skipper.

"Congratulations to Matt, Capt. Patrick and the entire Breathe Easy team for an outstanding season," says Scott Burt, GCTC director. "They started out strong and never looked back as they piled up catch after catch. Share-E, Rise Up and some other contenders made a strong push only to come up a little short. That just shows the caliber of the teams and the competitive spirit on display every summer here in the prolific Gulf."

Dennis Pastentine and his veteran team aboard Relentless Pursuit, a 95 Jim Smith based in New Orleans, took the Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship in 2015. With Captain Robbie Doggett as skipper, Michael Akiu and Jerry Morrison as mates, Relentless Pursuit started strong by winning the Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic and competed in all five events that comprise the series.

RELENTLESS PURSUIT WINS
2015 GULF COAST TRIPLE CROWN CHAMPIONSHIP



July 14, 2015; Orange Beach, Alabama: Dennis Pastentine and his veteran team aboard Relentless Pursuit, a 95 Jim Smith based in New Orleans, Louisiana, are the 2015 Gulf Coast Triple Crown Champions. Captain Robbie Doggett is the skipper, with Michael Akiu and Jerry Morrison as mates. Relentless Pursuit started strong by winning the Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic and competed in all five events that comprise the series. The Grand Marlin Restaurant and Oyster Bar and Gulf Coast Yacht Group were the 2015 Presenting Sponsors.

Pastentine caught the winning blue marlin, a 508.1-pounder during the Cajun Classic and also took top release honors by adding four blue marlin to his overall tally. During the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic in Sandestin, he released a blue and two white marlin. The boat also fished hard in the other qualifying events, including the Orange Beach Billfish Classic, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic and the Blue Marlin Grand Championship. By competing in all events, Relentless Pursuit earned bonus points which proved to be the difference.

Rise Up, a 54 Viking owned by Rusty Skalla, was the first runner-up in the 2015 series. Rise Up was the top boat of the Orange Beach Billfish Classic after weighing a 502-pound blue marlin. Capt. Jason Hallmark is the skipper of the Destin-based sportfisher.

Owner/captain Johnny Dorland and his team aboard Cotton Patch, a 60 Hatteras based in Orange Beach, Alabama, came in third in the points standings. Cotton Patch outlasted a blue marlin weighing 899.6 pounds in the Emerald Coast event to take first place. As a new tournament record, the team also received bonus points in the Triple Crown standings.

The Triple Crown is scored on a hybrid system that includes both weight and release points for the top three finishes in the blue marlin divisions only. Bonus points are also accrued for series participation and tournament marlin records.

Dana Foster and Capt. Myles Colley on Born2Run made a late run at the crown, only to come up a little short. The 63 Hatteras won third place in the Blue Marlin Grand Championship based solely on release points, but Relentless Pursuit's early lead was too much to overcome. The other teams in the Championship race included past two-time champion Done Deal, You Never Know! and Ono Ocean. Fishing partners Palmer Long and Bob Sossaman were so determined to compete they chartered a boat to fish Emerald Coast when the Ono Ocean broke down. For their efforts, they were awarded the Busted Piston hard-luck award at the BMGC.

As Triple Crown Champions Relentless Pursuit won a six-foot custom marlin sculpture by marine artist Frank Ledbetter and bragging rights for the competitive Gulf tournament circuit.

"Starting at Steve Thomas' Canyon Classic, Relentless Pursuit relentlessly charged forward and never looked back," Tournament Director Scott Burt explained. "They just kept coming and they are the Champions today because of that competitive spirit. Congratulations to Dennis and Team Relentless Pursuit on a great Gulf season."

Sea Mixer, a 66 Spencer owned by Ronald Davis and run by Capt. Devin Potts, was declared the third-place winner in the 2014 Blue Marlin Grand Championship when Chris Davis caught a 368.2-pound blue marlin and Tyler Davis released another one. With that third place finish, and their top finishes that year in the other four tournaments of the series, Sea Mixer stepped up to grab the coveted 2014 Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship trophy, and with that win dashed Done Deal's chance for a three-peat.

Sea Mixer Wins 2014 Gulf Coast Triple Crown Championship

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 14, 2014
Contact: Scott Burt, 850-233-1633

Sea Mixer, a 66 Spencer owned by Ronald Davis of Orange Beach, Alabama, was crowned the 2014 Gulf Coast Triple Crown Champion after a third-place finish in Blue Marlin Grand Championship last weekend. Led by Capt. Devin Potts, the family team won the title after earning the most points in the grueling five-tournament Gulf series.

"It's a dream come true," Davis said after the results were announced at Sunday's awards breakfast at The Wharf in Orange Beach, Alabama. "The main thing is it was accomplished by my whole family and crew. It was a total team effort."

Sea Mixer compiled 700 points based on first place in the Orange Beach Billfish Classic with a 528.6-pound blue marlin, a 708.6-pound first-place blue in the Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic in Venice, Louisiana, and a 368.2-pound marlin in the just-completed BMGC. Davis and his family also competed in the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic in Biloxi and the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic in Sandestin, the other two qualifying events. Sea Mixer used a live bait in the Green Canyon to land the marlin that put them over the top last weekend.

Triple Crown points are earned by winning the top three spots in blue marlin weight or catch-and-release divisions. Bonus points are also scored if a boat breaks an existing blue marlin tournament record and competes in all five sanctioned events.

Team Reel Worthless came in second in the 2014 Triple Crown standings, followed by the preceding two-time champion Done Deal. Reel Worthless was the top release boat in the Canyons Classic, took third place in the blue marlin weight division in the MGCBC and caught the only blue marlin weighed in the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic. The team's first place tuna award in the Orange Beach Billfish Classic and fourth-place marlin award in the Grand Championship did not accrue any points.

Done Deal, Triple Crown winner the past two years, was the top release boat in the OBBC and ECBC. All three boats earned extra points for fishing the five tournaments.

Sea Mixer takes home a beautiful 6-foot metal marlin sculpture created by marine artist Frank Ledbetter and bragging rights for the next year. Davis said he didn't think the outcome would be this close.

"It's a special honor to compete with some really great boats and owners," he said. "It was pretty challenging and took a lot of commitment. We'll see if I'm personally able to defend the title next year. There are no guarantees and at 71, the Triple Crown competition stressed me out a lot. But Sea Mixer and my family will definitely be in the mix next year, for sure."

Not yet ready to turn down the heat, the Done Deal boys from Louisiana fought their way through all five 2013 qualifying events and once again found themselves back at the winner's table, snatching up the coveted GCTC trophy for a second consecutive year in 2013. What could be better than a beautiful six-foot custom stainless steel marlin sculpture by renowned marine artist Frank Ledbetter? How about 2012/2013 bookends?

DONE DEAL REPEATS AS 2013 GULF TRIPLE CROWN CHAMPION


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
JULY 15, 2013
Orange Beach, Alabama: Done Deal has done it again. Coming off one of the most successful campaigns in big-game fishing, the 56-foot Viking based in Houma, Louisiana, was declared the 2013 Gulf Coast Triple Crown Champion yesterday at the conclusion of the last qualifying event.

Owner Jon Gonsoulin, Capt. Jason Buck, mates Lance Hightower and Travis Dorland and anglers Trevor Lott, Billy Cemac, Mike LaSalle and David Lebouf caught a 445.2-pound blue marlin and a 76.6-pound yellowfin tuna during the just-concluded Blue Marlin Grand Championship. Even though those fish did not earn the team any qualifying points, participation in that tournament along with the other four qualifiers gave it enough bonus points to earn the top standing. Breathe Reel Deep, You Never Know!, Reel Fire, CE and Pipe Dream were also final contenders for the title.

The GCTCC was created to recognize the top sportfishing team on the highly-competitive Gulf of Mexico blue marlin circuit. The original concept was the brainchild of Sonny Middleton of Middleton Marine, a long-time advocate of sport fishing and boating in the Gulf. Under the format points are accrued for first through third place finishes in the blue marlin divisions, catch-and-release divisions, as well as first-place finishes in the tuna, wahoo and dolphin categories. In addition to the Blue Marlin Grand Championship, other participating events include the Mobile Big Game Fishing Club's Memorial Day Tournament, the Cajun Canyons Billfish Classic, the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic and the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic.

Along with bragging rights for another year, Done Deal wins a beautiful six-foot custom stainless steel marlin sculpture by renowned marine artist Frank Ledbetter. The team will also be styling in custom-embroidered Columbia fishing shirts.

"I tip my hat to Team Breathe Reel Deep," Gonsoulin said at the awards presentation. "They were neck and neck with us all year. They had a great run.

"This really means a lot to me and my team," he added, "And we'll definitely be back again next year to defend our title against this very top-notch competition."

2012 was the year of the Done Deal fishing out of Houma Louisiana. After a dream season of unbelievable tournament success, Jon Gonsoulin loaded the 2012 Trophy in his Citation jet after the Blue Marlin Grand Championship and flew it home to Louisiana. Nobody came close to catching the Done Deal as Jon proved once again the old adage, when you're hot...you're hot.

2011 saw the GCTC introduced for the first time at Bobby Carter's Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic at the popular Isle of Capri Casino in Biloxi. Reaction from anglers and crew was immediate and overwhelmingly positive. The excitement continued to build throughout the tournament circuit and culminated in a virtual tie at the conclusion remarkably similar to NASCAR's tie between Tony Steward and Carl Edwards that year. "Team Patron" would break the tie and take the inaugural Frank Ledbetter GCTC Trophy home to Texas.

Patron Wins the 2011 Gulf Coast Triple Crown

July 10, 2011: What an exciting finish! After three events two boats are tied for first, with both Patron and Pipe Dream boasting 398 points. The tie goes to the largest Blue Marlin weighed, and Patron's 702.5 pound Blue Marlin weighed at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic edged out the 665 pound fish weighed by Pipe Dream at the Bay Point Invitational.


Boat
Total Points
Award
PATRON398First Place Blue Marlin, Biloxi
PIPE DREAM398First Place Blue Marlin, Bay Point
REEL ADDICTION397First Place C/R, Biloxi, Second Place Tuna, Bay Point
TEAM GALATI328First Place C/R, Destin
TESTING THE WATER327Third Place Blue Marlin, Biloxi, Third Place Dolphin, Bay Point
MOLLIE327First Place Dolphin, Third Place C/R Bay Point
TITANIUM 5.0317Third Place C/R, Destin, Third Place Wahoo, Bay Point
SHARE E278First Place Tuna, Bay Point
REEL WORTHLESS268Second Place Tuna, Biloxi
YOU NEVER KNOW!268Second Place Tuna, Destin